11/15/2008, 00.00
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Pope: caring for sick child means thinking of his "true well-being"

Children deserve every form of attention, both scientific, while avoiding the "temptation of experimentalism," and human, in part by facilitating communication with their parents. The illness of children is also an exhortation to international solidarity.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Care for sick children requires a special kind of attention, even more than that which must be shown to anyone facing suffering. It requires, Benedict XVI maintained today, the combination of the best scientific knowledge and "human tenderness," requiring that, on the level of health care, the "temptation of experimentalism" be avoided, and that the concern be for the "true well-being" of both the child and his parents, remembering always the dignity of every human person, from the moment of conception. At the same time, the "many conditions of inequality still existing" in poor countries, such as those caused by war, poverty, and AIDS, must be "addressed as soon as possible, with definitive action."

The audience with participants at the 23rd international conference organized by the pontifical council for the pastoral care of health care workers, on the theme "pastoral issues in caring for sick children," which concludes today at the Vatican, gave the pope the opportunity to assert a few central points of the attitude that the Church wants to be shown toward those who suffer.

In the world, and especially in "less fortunate countries," "the challenge today is to combat the resurgence of not a few pathologies that once were typical of childhood and, overall, to foster the growth, development, and maintenance of a suitable state of health for all children." "In this vast action, everyone is involved: families, doctors, and social and health care workers."

"Medical research sometimes finds itself facing difficult situations, for example when there is a need to reach a proper balance between exhaustiveness and restraint in treatment, in order to ensure adequate treatment for the real needs of the young patients, without giving in to the temptation of experimentalism. It is not superfluous to recall that at the center of every medical intervention, there must always be the pursuit of the true well-being of the child, considered in his dignity as a human subject with full rights. He must therefore be cared for with love, in order to help him to face suffering and sickness, even before birth, to the extent suitable to his situation."

"Taking into consideration also the emotional aspect of illness and of the treatments to which the child is subjected, which not rarely are particularly invasive, it is important to guarantee him constant communication with his family members. If health care workers, doctors and nurses, feel the weight of the suffering of the young patients they are assisting, it is easy to imagine how strong the suffering of their parents is! The medical and human aspects must never be separated, and every structure of assistance and health care, especially if it is animated by a genuine Christian spirit, has the duty to offer its best in terms of competence and humanity. The sick person, and in a special way the child, has a special understanding of the language of tenderness and love, expressed through attentive, patient, and generous service, animated in the believer by the desire to demonstrate the same love that Jesus had for children."

"I think above all," the pope concluded, "of the children who are orphaned or abandoned because of misery and family disintegration; I think of the children who are the innocent victims of AIDS, of war or of the many armed conflicts taking place in various parts of the world; I think of children who die on account of misery, thirst and hunger. The Church does not forget these, her youngest children, and if on the one hand she applauds the initiatives of wealthier countries to improve the conditions of their development, on the other she forcefully feels the duty of calling for greater attention to these our brothers, so that through our united solidarity they may look at life with trust and hope."

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